Murder At Wisteria Pines
By Jon Randal
Struggling bookstore owner Raymond Hilary meets Colonel Cornelius Astor-Beaudry for the first time one evening and within hours is thrown right into a murder mystery with a voodoo slant. Actually, two murders have happened at Wisteria Pines estate. A maid and Angus Callahan, owner of the house. Suspects: Callahan’s children who may or may not be inheriting the family millions; Callahan’s partner or his wife, the latter of which may inherit Callahan’s business interests; a pair of land Louisiana land developers. Hilary tries to keep caught up on the racing mind of the Colonel as they search for a murderer.
I love it! A classic locked room mystery with all the ambiance of Britain set in the 1970s American south. Oh, come on, of course it’s been done before but who cares if it’s still a good story? It’s an updated Watson and Holmes but still a fine read.
Raymond Hilary: British, owns a bookstore, smokes a pipe, thin, drive an MK I MG Midget,
Cornelius Astor-Beaudry: has the title of Colonel, long curly hair, black eyes, bushy eyebrows, mustache, smokes cigars, wears reading glasses, wealthy, owns a 1952 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith, owns dogs
Roosevelt: black, the Colonel’s butler
Devaney: has the title of Captain, huge build, police officer
Alicia Callahan: auburn hair
Dorothy Callahan: Alicia’s sister, attended Tulane for theatre and dance,
David Callahan: Alicia’s brother, married, owns an art gallery
John W. Pickford: smokes a pipe, married
Richard Bayson: worked as a secretary to Angus Callahan, weathered face, muscular, has a tattoo on his arm
Tremaine LeVeaux: daughter worked for Callahan and was murdered
Dixie Lafayette: cook, had studied medicine at LSU, freckles, bosomy
Rich and varied characters all. Rich in the way of personalities and descriptions. A fine cast with special quirks and idiosyncrasies. Of course, as I mentioned, the Colonel is a modern Sherlock with Raymond his reluctant Watson. Roosevelt could be a more involved but peskier Mrs. Hudson with Devaney as Lestrade.
This comparison is cool and not a criticism. I don’t mind them. Roosevelt is a hoot and the Colonel’s driver is pretty interesting, too.
Wonderful accents and voice. The southern comes through, Roosevelt’s stereotypical black speech comes through. The Colonel can change tones and inflection on a whim from cynical to proper southern gentleman. I didn’t hear too much of Raymond’s British other than in some of the narrative.
Title chapters. First person from Hilary’s POV. Prosaic language harkening to a mystery set in the 1930s or 1940s England even though it’s set in the American south. (Makes sense since the main narrator is British.)
The pace stays high with a couple of places to take a breath. Then it’s back into the action. Not shoot ’em up action, just busy stuff with the Colonel in the middle of it or causing it.
Some overuse of ‘ly’ words. A couple of minor punctuation issues that was just noticeable not egregious and may just be the format or a miss in editing.
The writing, I think, could have been tighter in places. Those places are noticeable, but not too jarring to drive you out of the story. The book has some good doses of humor. The Colonel goes over the edge at times but not out of sight and that only makes the story a bit more enjoyable. I wouldn’t have wanted a staid and reserved Colonel nor do I want an overbearing ham or somebody who’s false in his personality.
Now, as for ranking. I can put aside the punctuation issues but not the ‘ly’. This barely (sorry for my use of an ‘ly’ word) keeps the book out of the brown range. However, do not mistake the rank given as an okay, average rank. I thought this a thoroughly (sorry again), enjoyable story, an delightful read, and would look forward to the next Colonel/Hilary mystery.